• Increase font size
  • Default font size
  • Decrease font size

ANW Continues Exploration of the late 20th Century Classic

E-mail Print

A Noise Within’s co-Artistic Director, Geoff Elliott, brings life to the late 20th Century classic Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead at a time when our social collective seems to reflect the anxiety of an unhinged ruler ricocheting the ship of state toward an uncertain future.  In 1967 when it was first produced, Tom Stoppard’s play reflected much the same discontent emerging from the existential disquiet of a new youthful movement.


Stoppard centers his play on two friends in Hamlet that figure only tangentially in Shakespeare’s original play, embuing them with clownish introspection that mimics Laurel and Hardy as much as the tramps in Beckett’s Waiting For Godot.  Played with youthful ambivalnce, Rosencrantz (Kasey Mahaffy) and Guildenstern (Rafael Goldstein) bumble through their existence, making up activities for themselves to while away the time.


On their way toward Elsinore they meet a band of tragedians, the next most tangential group in Shakespeare’s play, headed by “The Player” (the marvelous Wesley Mann),.  Elliott depicts the band of bedraggled exiles, as they must have been in Shakespeare’s time. The one jewel they possess seems to be Alfred (Sam Christian), a poor, abject child who plays all the women’s roles. In this age of #Me too, he seems less a comic than an endangered figure.

Upon reaching Hamlet’s castle Rosencrantz and Guildenstern have an opaque perspective on the passing scene as they overhear key intrigues or bask in the momentary attention from Hamlet (an engaging Paul David Story), or bombastic Claudius (Jonathan Bray) and helpless Gertrude (Abby Craden).

To tell the story, a series of movable set pieces (designed by Frederica Nascimento) move from indistinct mounds astride the stage that wind up outlining a sailing vessel in ANW’s trademark choreographic set transformations. Jenny Foldenaur’s costumes ranging from traditional for the characters in Hamlet to the grotesque, embellish the fever-dreaming mood. Ken Booth’s modeled lighting defines each location along the way, but, as a side note, the presence of stage fog doesn’t really add.

In keeping with the dictates of the script, the play falls into three acts and running time seems whittled down through judicious pruning of the Shakespearean sections. The end result, though, accentuates Stoppard’s youthful yet sincere imitation of Becket’s Waiting For Godot. It’s interesting, always, to see how cutting a play may skew its overall impact.

Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead figures among the first of many off-kilter approaches to classical works by modern playwrights. Comparing originals with their sequels or tributes provides us with new assessments, entertaining and enriching at the same time. In Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, Stoppard has done it all.


Rosencrantz and Guildenstern performs in repertory with Portrait of Dorian Gray through November 18th, 2018,  at A Noise Within, 3352 East Foothill Blvd., Pasadena 91107. See for complete schedule. Ticket prices start at $25.00 with Student and Group rates available. Phone (626) 356-3114 or online at



Laguna Playhouse Announces Ellen Richard as its Interim Executive Director

May 3, 2016…Laguna Beach, Calif…Laguna Playhouse Board of Directors announced today that, later this month, Ellen Richard will be joining Laguna Playhouse as its Interim Executive Director. The Playhouse announced late last year that it was undertaking a national search guided by Arts Consulting Group (ACG) for an Executive Director to succeed Karen Wood who had held this position for the past eight years.

Commenting on the appointment Joe Hanauer and Paul Singarella, Co-Chairmens of the Board of Directors, said “In the midst of our search we encountered this wonderful opportunity to engage Ellen while we continue to seek appropriate long-term leadership. To have found someone with the extraordinary qualifications that Ellen has is thrilling. She is the recipient of six Tony Awards as producer at New York’s Roundabout Theatre Company where she was Managing Director. Ellen also has strong successes in supervising the construction of theatres in New York and also in San Francisco at the American Conservatory Theater, a rare and valuable skill set considering the contemplated major remodel and expansion of the Laguna Playhouse.” Laguna Playhouse Artistic Director Ann E. Wareham adds, “We are pleased and proud to have Ellen Richard, truly a rock-star in our field, join us as our interim Executive Director who will help guide the Playhouse during this transition.” Comments Ellen Richard, “I have quickly grown fond of Laguna Beach and the Playhouse. I embrace this extraordinary opportunity to join one of the country’s top regional theatres at this time in its remarkable 95-year history. I look forward to helping the Playhouse and working with their incredible Board of Trustees and Ann E. Wareham.”


Ellen Richard served as Executive Director of the American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco from 2010 through 2015.  During her tenure, Ms. Richard negotiated a deal to buy the Strand Theater in tech corridor of Mid-Market San Francisco, helped raise the $34,000 million to renovate and operate it and steered the design and construction for the project which opened in May of 2015. The complex featured two performance spaces and has won multiple awards.  She opened the 50 seat Costume Shop Theater, a 49-seat “black box” venue used for the company’s Master of Fine Arts students and for shows by other local companies.  Ms. Richard was also credited with expanding the company’s educational efforts, coming up with programs like the San Francisco Semester, which brings undergraduate acting students to ACT from around the world, and Stage Coach, a community theater mobile unit that reaches into diverse neighborhoods

She was also Executive Director of The Second Stage Theatre in New York City. During her tenure at Second Stage, which began in 2006 (through 2009), she was responsible for the purchase contract of the Helen Hayes Theatre, growth in subscription income of 48 percent, and growth in individual giving of 75 percent, as well as conceptualization of a highly successful gala format and “Second Generation,” a giving program through which donors enable deserving New York City youth to experience live theater. Under Ms. Richard’s leadership, Second Stage provided the initial home for the Broadway productions Everyday Rapture, Next to Normal, and The Little Dog Laughed.

From 1983 to 2005, Ms. Richard enjoyed a rich and varied career with Roundabout Theatre Company. The Roundabout that Ms. Richard joined was a small nonprofit theater company in bankruptcy. By the time she departed as Managing Director, Roundabout had become one of the country’s largest and most successful theater companies of its kind, with net assets in excess of $67 million dollars. Ms. Richard is the recipient of six Tony Awards as producer, for Roundabout productions of Cabaret (1998), A View from the Bridge (1998), Side Man (1999), Nine (2003), Assassins (2004), and Glengarry Glen Ross (2005). As producer of more than 125 shows at Roundabout, she had direct supervision of all management and marketing functions. She created Roundabout’s “Theatre-PLUS” programs, which include singles, teachers, family, gay and lesbian, wine tasting, and the 7 p.m. “Early Curtain” series, all of which grew to represent more than 10 percent of Roundabout’s 40,000 subscribers.

As director of design and construction at Roundabout, Ms. Richard was responsible for more than $50 million of theater construction for 11 projects. She conceptualized the three permanent Roundabout stages — The Broadway venues of Studio 54 and the American Airlines Theatre, and the Off-Broadway venue The Harold and Miriam Steinberg Center for Theatre She directed the location search for Cabaret and oversaw the creation of the production’s environmental Kit Kat Klub. Prior to her tenure at Roundabout, Ms. Richard served as business manager of Westport Country Playhouse, theater manager for Stamford Center for the Arts, and business manager for Atlas Scenic Studio. She began her career working as a stagehand, sound designer, and scenic artist assistant.